December 31, 2012

Piano Master Class: Art Tatum, the Floating Arm and Playing Piano to Key Bottom | Music Lesson Tips

Piano Master Class: Art Tatum, the Floating Arm and Playing Piano to Key Bottom

Ghenady Meirson
Submitted: Sunday, December 30, 2012 - 6:06pm
Jazz pianist Art Tatum performs "Yesterdays" by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach
Art Tatum's piano artistry is legendary. This video example speaks to the very subject described in Josef Lhevinne's book Basics Principles of Pianoforte Playing.
Josef Lhevinne was an extraordinary classical pianist. He graduated together with Sergey Rachmaninoff from Moscow Conservatory. Adding to the mix pianistVladimir Horowitz, who was mesmerized by Art Tatum rendition of Tea for Two, these classical pianists also possessed monstrous piano techniques.
In his book, Lhevinne discusses the concept of a "floating arm", not the kind that "flaps around limply" but one that is free of tension, the wrist functioning as a natural shock absorber, and every note is played to the bottom of the key.
Lhevinne stressed that a student should repeatedly ask the following three questions:
"Is my arm floating?"
"Am I striking each note to key bottom?"
"Am I keeping my fingers on the surface of the keys?"
Lhevinne adds, "I also notice that when I am trying to secure a "floating arm" condition, my elbow extends very slightly from the side of my body."
This film clip of Art Tatum's playing is a true piano master class where we can see all piano playing principles at work. His arms are free of tension, his fingers are in perfect position on the surface of each key and every note is played to the bottom of the key at insanely fast speeds.
Here are recording examples of each above motioned classical pianists.

December 22, 2012

Singing in Russian: Overcoming Challenges of Singing in a Foreign Language | Music Lesson Tips

Singing in Russian: Overcoming Challenges of Singing in a Foreign Language

Ghenady Meirson
Submitted: Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 7:05am
Tchaikovsky "Eugene Onegin" - Russian Opera Workshop 2011
Most opera singers spend majority of time singing in Italian, French and German. They work with diction coaches, vocal coaches and take formal language classes.
Russian is in its own category. With less exposure to the language, for classical singers barriers are substantial when factoring in the Cyrillic alphabet and limited common words with other languages. Making sense of gibberish word shells and filling them with meaning and expression is quite a task.
Because Russian operas are in greater demand around the world, increasingly more and more classical singers study Russian vocal repertoire.
The best direction is always to learn the Russian alphabet, accumulate vocabulary and achieve reading fluency.
The next best thing is to work with transliterations either in IPA (international phonetic alphabet) or other transcriptions into English letters. Differences in transliterations are huge and this is when an expert coach is invaluable.
Currently, I am in a middle of production of Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" with AVA Artists at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. The show is going up on January 15, 2013. The vocalists are working with my own transliterations and word-for-word translations.
Early in the process, I introduce an exercise where singers isolate a phrase in Russian, then come up with precise translation to each word and alternate singing the phrase in Russian and in English. Here is a very simple example:
Ya lyublyu vas
I love you
In this exercise, rhythmic alterations are acceptable in order to fit the English translation to the music. This is the fastest way to acquire connection with meaning, feeling and expression at any given point within the musical phrase.
As the artists left for winter break, this exercise is my only parting advice. Come January, it's show time.

December 19, 2012

Why You Must Always Keep Time When You Play in a Group | Music Lesson Tips

Why You Must Always Keep Time When You Play in a Group

Submitted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 - 9:33pm
Ney Mello in concert with Scott Ambush and Sean Rickman at Blues Alley, Wshington, DC
The need to be able to never depend on anyone for the time keeping in a group and of course when playing solo.

"The drummer or percussionist in your group is not there to keep time for you or anyone else. He or she, is there with his intrument to add beauty, drama, and color to the music" -Ney Mello

Knowing a rhythm is being able to play it without counting and without trying to play it right. The instant you "try" you're dead. So one has to practice this:

Absolute familiarity with the rhythm.

Not counting it
Not thinking about it

Just being so familiiar that it becomes second walking without counting steps and without trying to lift the legs perfectly and without thryng to not lose balance and fall.

The only difference between you and me in rhythm is that I am so familiar with the rhythms i play I don't think about. I just let my body do it and "stay out of it!" Stay out of the way.....I don't try to do anything but express a feel that cannot be expressed in technical jargon or musical notation.

The sense of time must also be practiced so that you can play the time (or keep the time) and play the rhythms on top of the time, all at once and without thinking either. A low grade musician can only play in time if he/she has a drummer, drum machine, or a percussionist to use as a crutch.

Drummers..etc... are playing that instrument to add drama and color to the group, and not there to serve as mere human metronomes.

That is still at the level of craft and not art. To get to the level of art, you have to feel or experience a scene and let your body do it. You don't do it. Your body does it...if it is prepared at the level of craft ( technique)

What you need to remember is that musical performance is no place for thinking about it...It is instead a place to express what thought cannot express....That is why we need music in the first place. If we go to the intellect for can't help us... It is way beyond it's powers. Yet we can use intellect while we practice to get familiar with the music and it's rhythms.

December 17, 2012

Balancing Act: Learning to Work and to Practice Music Performance | Music Lesson Tips

Balancing Act: Learning to Work and to Practice Music Performance | Music Lesson Tips

Balancing Act: Learning to Work and to Practice Music Performance

Ghenady Meirson
Submitted: Monday, December 17, 2012 - 7:34am
Pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski (1892 – 1993) taught at the Curtis Institute of Music
Both the work and music performance practice are inseparable. It is about striking the right balance.
"Do you work at home or do you perform?" This pointed question stuck with me for years since my Curtis piano teacher, Mieczyslaw Horszowski, posed it to me. It goes to the heart of the problem -- performing at home instead of working, which yields little progress.
There is an inherent challenge with beautiful music. Our desire to play a new piece right away surpasses our abilities at an early learning stage.
As a piano student I fell into this trap. Even now, as an experienced musician, the discipline of balancing the work on a piece of music and practicing to perform it, is a continued work in progress.
It is true, we work more efficiently when we have a specific goal. Performers always have some future date for concerts, shows or recording sessions. It is a classic project management process, and some do it better than others.
Learning to crawl before you can walk is a proverb worth keeping top of mind. Ultimately, both the work and music performance practice are inseparable. It is about striking the right balance.
Music Genres:

December 12, 2012

Two young musicians in works for viola and piano offer an admirable program | Articles

Two young musicians in works for viola and piano offer an admirable program | Articles

Two young musicians in works for viola and piano offer an admirable program

Marina Radiushina
Submitted: Monday, December 10, 2012 - 11:33am
By Lawrence Budmen
The viola is sometimes viewed as the neglected child of the string family, often assigned inner lines and figuration in chamber and orchestral scores. 2011 has proved a banner year for the instrument in South Florida. A superb recital in April by Yuri Bashmet and Kim Kashkashian’s recent program of works by America composers for SoBe Arts’ American Masterworks Festival displayed the instrument’s range and versatility to impressive effect. Violist Nathan Schram and pianist Marina Radiushina, both members of New York’s esteemed Ensemble ACJW, presented a varied program Friday night at the recital hall of the Miami Conservatory of Music in Coconut Grove.
Schram is a gifted young artist with strong technique and projection, backed by a distinctive interpretive agenda and engaging personality. The well-traveled Radiushina counts Serge Babayan and Ivan Davis among her teachers. A technically polished and sensitive player, Radiushina confirmed the strong impression she made two seasons ago when she joined the Bergonzi String Quartet for Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet at the Mainly Mozart Festival.
Schumann’s Marchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures) displays the viola’s romantic side. Aided by the live, bright acoustic of the school’s long, narrow recital room, Schram captured the elegant folksiness of the Lebhan with crisp articulation, Radiushina’s figuration fleet and lithe. Schram’s large, rich tone soared in the spaciously phrased Langsam.
Arvo Part’s Fratres exists in multiple instrumental versions; yet this score by the Estonian mystic always exerts a spiritual intensity that is profoundly moving. That is all the more remarkable for the music’s sheer simplicity and directness. Schram and Radiushina were pitch perfect, bringing rapt fervor and incisive power to Part’s distinctive writing.
Brahms’ Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op.120 is the composer’s own viola transcription of a work originally conceived for clarinet. Unlike the similar arrangement of Brahms’ other clarinet sonata, this score works remarkably well on the string instrument. The players reveled in the evocative autumnal glow of this late romantic score. From the turbulence of the initial Allegro appassionato to the aristocratic spirit of the finale, Schram endowed the score with throbbing power, lovely tone and agile dexterity. Radiushina’s exquisitely shaped keyboard line in the Andante and the dancing sensibility of the Allegretto grazioso were high points of a cogent, heartfelt performance.
Six movements of Manuel de Falla’s Suite Popular Espanola were a tasty musical desert, skillfully transferred to the viola by Schram from the vocal and violin versions. The Polo movement was not entirely convincing on viola but Asturiana took on a newly impressionistic air, seconded by Radiushina’s softly accentuated accompanying chords. Schram really dug into the Nana, sacrificing pristine sonority for gutsy, sultry color. Radiushina’s brilliantly articulated rapid clusters of notes sent the final Pano Moruno into fiery orbit, concluding a highly satisfying recital.
Radiushina plans future Miami residencies in March and November 2012 by members of Ensemble ACJW, a musicians’ collective that combines concert performances with educational and community outreach ventures.

December 09, 2012

Recording World Class Vocals in a Professional Studio | Articles

Recording World Class Vocals in a Professional Studio | Articles

Recording World Class Vocals in a Professional Studio

Submitted: Saturday, December 8, 2012 - 6:09pm
Guitarist/Composer/Producer Ney Mello and artist Samir Moussa recording Samir's vocal tracks in the studio in Washington D.C.
Guitarist/composer/ producer Ney Mello, takes us through some inside recording session technical procedures he uses to acheive his trademark world class vocal recordings, which is quite different than recording instrumental performances.
Samir Moussa Washington D.C. Recording Session Details by Ney Mello:
The Neumann M149 tube is a very high voltage output microphone ( +18dBu ) , so even for Samir's silky voice I had to set the -20dB pad on the studio's Avalon AD 2022 pre to avoid red lining the pro tools channel. For the voice to really bloom I set the Avalon input control almost to zero (remember: this microphone outputs a very high dBu signal) and instead, the signal gain was set by turning the OUTPUT of the Avalon to almost 10.
You see, that way you have the Avalon working it's magic full blast and you REALLY get what it has to give, instead of setting the Avalon's input high and getting mostly the high gain M149 circuit audio charater, which one may want to do with a low quality pre to to minimize it's influence; but, the concept here was to really use the beautiful Avalon circuits which bloom gorgeously if they are really pushed. The M149 Tube has extremely low noise floor and an unbelievable sound,and the Avalon is a very quiet set of circuits with an external power supply to further reduce noise, so you can do that.
I put Samir a foot and a half away from the mic and for the doubling and some harmonies, he was about 3 feet away from the mic. This enriches the voice timbre, avoids proximity effect, avoids plosives and sibilance issues. It is an old 1950s/60s technique responsible for most of the legendary vocal recordings produced to this day in a professional tracking room/soundstage. Legend Bruce Swedien popularised the procedure of having the vocalist take a step back from the microphone for vocal doubling and harmonies.
The microphone is positioned above the head to avoid excessive high frequency reflections of the singers palate. For details, please consult "Mixing With Your Mind" by Michael Stavrou (
Samir sings out of his right side so we positioned the Microphone accordingly; a master tip from legendary Michael Stavrou,( as was the elevated mic positioning.
The tracks came out fantastic and Samir is ultra-talented. It was first take city all night.
I used the Essential sound MusiCord Pro power cord on the studio's AD 2022 Avalon power supply and the Neumann M149 power supply and a Accusound Silver Studio Pro high end mic cable I got in La$ Vega$.
Music Genres:

December 08, 2012

Toys for Tots Benefit | Events

Toys for Tots Benefit | Events

Toys for Tots Benefit

Wendy Parman
Submitted: Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:33am
Saturday, December 8, 2012 - 7:00pm
The Red Line Tap 7006 N. Glenwood Chicago, IL
Benefit for a great cause with loads of fabulous entertainment and fun! raffles, prizes....My band The Red Apples goes on at 10:15!!!

The Red Apples | Photos

The Red Apples | Photos

The Red Apples

The Red Apples with Wendy Parman at Ukelele Fest

December 06, 2012

Practicing Advanced Latin Rhythms for Guitar and Bass | Music Lesson Tips

Practicing Advanced Latin Rhythms for Guitar and Bass | Music Lesson Tips

Practicing Advanced Latin Rhythms for Guitar and Bass

Submitted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 9:52am
Hindu Konokol system used as an easy and extremely fluid bridge in transitioning live between the Western cut time metrics for rumba clave and Brazilian rhythms which have no clave concept or clave feel as played in Brazilian culture"
Great for my guitar and bass students to ponder:
"Last night-on guitar- untill 3 am today...
Getting familiar with rumba clave in western cut-time and Indian Konakol metrics simultaneously (without stopping) makes it easy to shift from rumba to Samba, to Bossa Nova ( 16ths on ride cymbal) and Frevo without "counting time" while you play.
By the time one plays, one does not count time during playing.The time and clave have to be in the body, as well as the brazilian 16ths accents which have no clave concept in Brazil. Brazilians do not think of clave.
The samba and frevo and Bossa Nova are purely felt and learned in the day to day life. They are learned as spoken language is learned like all other cultural rhythms are in other cultures. One of the differences between the Brazilian rhythmic culture and the central american rhythmic culture is the absence of clave."
--Ney Mello
Music Genres:

December 04, 2012

Try not to try | Music Lesson Tips

Try not to try | Music Lesson Tips

Try not to try

Tammy Scheffer
Submitted: Monday, December 3, 2012 - 8:52pm
Is "trying harder" really an effective way of thinking, when reaching for certain goal in lesson or practice?
It's been fascinating to me for a while to notice, both on myself and on my students, how our mental state of mind and focus are so crucial to achieving progress with our technique and musical goals. Many students come to lessons with the best intentions, fully focused and motivated, but still "get stuck"- can't hit a certain pitch, can't internalize a melody, or push too hard to get a note in the edges of their range. As for myself, sometimes I find that in rehearsals with challenging materials I sight read slower than I know I'm able to, or perhaps my voice gets tired quicker than it should.
We all want to do well. However, sometimes trying too hard can shift your focus from the actual material you're working on to the subject of succeeding vs. failing. Check yourself during practice- how often do you get frustrated with yourself and think "why can't I get this"? Try to shift your thoughts back to the technique itself or the material you're working on. Focus on your breathing, the loosening of your jaw, on the lines of the phrases.
Our frustrations and self criticism could also make us tighten up physically, which in turn would change the way we use our body to produce sound. Our air wouldn't flow through us freely. The facial muscles tighten up, not allowing the sound to resonate correctly. We start "reaching" for the notes, instead of just letting them go.
Stop worrying about your goal. You're more likely to get there faster.